44 years ago the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior.
There have been many other shipwrecks on Lake Superior over the years. Many other mammoth November storms. Many other lives lost. But thanks in large part to singer Gordon Lightfoot, one shipwreck stands above the rest in the Great Lakes’ collective memory: the Edmund Fitzgerald. Sunday, Nov. 10, marks the 44th anniversary of the sinking of the Fitzgerald in a November gale on eastern Lake Superior with the loss of all 29 men aboard — a tragedy memorialized by Lightfoot in the now-iconic song he released the following year.
As the song recounts, the “Mighty Fitz” had left Superior on Nov. 9 with a load of iron ore pellets, and made its way across Lake Superior as a storm intensified. The Fitzgerald spent hours battling wind and waves, making its way toward Whitefish Point. On the evening of Nov. 10, 1975, the captain of the Fitzgerald, Ernest McSorley, radioed to the neaby freighter Arthur M. Anderson that the Fitzgerald crew was, quote, “holding our own.” Soon after, the Fitzgerald sank without giving a distress signal. On its final voyage across Lake Superior, the Fitzgerald passed several miles offshore from Split Rock Lighthouse, on Minnesota’s North Shore. And each Nov. 10 since 1985, the 10th anniversary of the wreck, the lighthouse has hosted a memorial ceremony and beacon lighting.